Oct 23, 2018

Not all uses of VPNs are illegitimate

When somebody tells you that they use a Virtual Private Network ("VPN") through which to access the internet as a whole, the mind is immediately drawn to the illicit activities that he or she may be conducting. Why else would that person feel the need to use a VPN?

For those unclear, a VPN is a free or paid for service masking the end-user's IP address from websites that have been visited. It means that without the network's assistance, literally nobody would ever be able to identify the person browsing or downloading their content. They are a favourite of copyright pirates and dark-web dwelling criminals.

They are also, however, used as an internet privacy method. VPNs have famously complex firewalls and counter-hacking measures and are used for far less nefarious purposes in heavily regulated jurisdictions. For instance, they are often used by tourists in China (and Chinese nationals) to access western websites.

Despite the legitimate reasons as to why people may use VPNs, and the fact that VPNs can actually protect people from hackers through encryption, there is a drawback in that online users of VPNs are placing a lot of their trust in the VPN providers; careful consideration has to be made when deciding what provider to use.

Recently, warnings against using VPNs with BitTorrent, the file transferring protocol, have been discussed. CEO of OpenVPN, Francis Dinha, has warned that using VPNs to access BitTorrent, can not only leave a user open to viruses and malware but puts users at risk of infringing copyright, for example. It has therefore been suggested that it is safer to use a VPN that blocks BitTorrent completely.

The warnings from the CEO of OpenVPN has raised some suspicion, not only because BitTorrent has plenty of legitimate uses (and is available on OpenVPN itself) but because OpenVPN have created their own new private (and paid) VPN service, PrivateTunnel. Are the warnings justified or is this a plug to encourage more users to choose PrivateTunnel for fear of being 'liable' when accessing BitTorrent?

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com

in: Copyright, News

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